There are plenty of things successful people do differently. Take for instance, their ability to apply context to any situation. They don’t view incidents in isolation, but in connection with each other.
Finding the learning opportunities in apparent crises takes patience, observation and that rare quality of being able to laugh at yourself. Learning happens over time, as previously held notions are continually challenged. It’s not always the easiest process, but it’s these very gaps in your knowledge that help refine your thought process and connect the dots. In fact, a study by Ben Haimowitz suggests that managers are motivated by others’ failures, so they can avoid the same happening with them.
Psychologists suggest that there are two ways of responding to any situation—judging and learning. If you have a judgmental mindset, you tend to want control over situations and focus your energy towards placing responsibility on someone else. The learner, on the other hand tends to observe situations in order to fully understand them, reserving judgement for later. This is a significant step towards developing a sort of ‘workplace ethos’. It will lend purpose and meaning to your work, helping you engage with situations creatively.
Here are seven ways to help reinforce a learner mindset at work. You may already be implementing some of these methods in your daily workflow, but consciously reinforcing these practises can go a long way towards increasing your team’s productivity.
1. Creative Collaboration
It is natural to look towards your manager as your immediate mentor. But learning is also social and collaborative. When it comes to team operations, work is constantly flowing between people with varied capacities and training. By collaborating with them creatively, you contribute to a hands-on, solution-oriented work culture while putting yourself in a position to build your professional network.
It’s a wonder just how much there is to learn if you’re willing to listen. Beyond just attending training seminars or workshops, we need to learn how to listen. Listening on the job takes patience, and a healthy interest in what others have to say. This comes especially handy during group discussions, when you can give an educated response based on what you have learned by listening.
3. Asking the right questions
In her work Change your Questions, Change your Life, Marilee Adams makes the distinction between judging and learning questions. Your decision-making process is heavily influenced by the kind of questions you ask; every situation is colored by your response to it. If you are curious to know the answer, you will ask questions that help you make sense of the situation at hand. One way to consciously adopt a learner mindset is to ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”
Are you aware of the questions you ask daily and their effect on your workflow? Take a look at these judger vs learner questions:
4. Openness to new ideas
Occasionally, you may come across a coworker who impresses their own limited version of events on others, to appear informed. Of course, this is a poor method for solving problems and improving work processes.
In contrast, the learner is willing to listen to new ways of doing things. They’re open to the possibility of a solution better than their own, and value creative collaboration over personal interest. When you’re open to new ideas, your worldview is no longer limited by a select number of ideas. Take my example: I am a storyteller in a tech company, with limited insight into the way things work from a technical standpoint. This makes my tasks more challenging, but exciting in equal measure. If I weren’t open to others’ ideas of doing things, I would learn very little.
Every time I hear someone say, “You haven’t changed a bit”, I cringe inwardly. It seems to say, “you haven’t really moved on or improved yourself in any way.” A giant step forward in your learning process is to question your previously-held assumptions. Look for new ways of understanding. If you aren’t challenging yourself and questioning your beliefs and methods, you may have settled into a pattern.
When working with other people, you’ll find a range of coworkers with skill sets different from yours. By accepting that there are areas you lack knowledge in, and taking advice from others with more expertise, you are in a better position to learn new ways of work. This way, you can engage with the task at hand and create something far superior to what you could achieve on your own.
7. Promote risk taking
Taking risks at work may seem like a scary prospect. But with a learner mindset, you will find yourself making calculated, smarter risks to accelerate your growth in the workplace. The more completely you embrace the learner philosophy, the more you can position yourself to direct yourself and your ideas.
For a large part of our educative years, we have seen how failure is called out as the worst possible outcome. By taking risks, you begin to overcome your fear of failure. Elon Musk decided to invest all his Paypal earnings into his own startups. We all know how that ended up for him. Look at any success story and you’re sure to hear a tale of risk.
While being a learner may appear to be a passive approach, it is far from that. In fact, studies by Peter Heslin, Gary Latham, and Don VandeWalle even suggest how being a learner can improve your work relations. Management-level employees become more capable of noticing employee performance and spend more time mentoring them, creating a nurturing environment.
If you are looking for an in-depth case study in this area, check it out here.